September 19, 2012 by Julia
Freedom of speech is my favorite Constitutional right. The level of our American commitment to free speech sets us apart from the rest of the world; I am proud that we are (as far as I can tell) the only country that does not criminalize hate speech. Go ahead, hate all you want! I don’t care, and I will defend your right to think and say hateful things as long as you do not engage in violence or specific exhortations to immediate violence.
This is why today’s report that Chick-fil-A agreed to various conditions to open a second location in Chicago–if true–disgusts me.
In a press release Tuesday from The Civil Rights Agenda, which BuzzFeed first reported earlier today, the group said Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno “has confirmed that Chick-fil-A will no longer give money to anti-gay organizations and that they have clarified in an internal document that the company will treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation.”
I don’t care about the content of Dan Cathy’s speech or Chick-fil-A’s speech. I don’t care! It’s irrelevant! But WHAT THE HELL is an elected official doing actually proposing as part of what appears to have been a negotiation that a private entity or citizen curtail his, her, or its speech?!
To recap, an elected Chicago alderman, Joe Moreno, refused to take the necessary legislative steps for Chick-fil-A to open a location in his ward until the company jumped through various hoops he invented. Now, this sort of coercion by itself is super shady, but hey, this is Chicago, after all, and Chicago isn’t even unique when it comes to city council members running their districts like medieval baronies.
The issue here is that the reason Moreno forbade a private company from opening a privately-owned location in his ward: Moreno didn’t like the speech of the company’s owner. That’s it. There is no accusation that Chick-fil-A has ever actually discriminated against an employee or guest; the only “action” Moreno can cite is a spoken comment by Cathy. What part of “no content-based restrictions on speech” is too hard to understand? There is no way Moreno’s supposed requirement that Chick-fil-A avoid certain donations would pass strict scrutiny. And even if you’re like me and reject the entire concept of incorporation altogether (it’s the law, so I will cite it, but I do not think it is the correct interpretation of the Constitution), the Illinois Constitution contains its own protections:
SECTION 4. FREEDOM OF SPEECH
All persons may speak, write and publish freely, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty. In trials for libel, both civil and criminal, the truth, when published with good motives and for justifiable ends, shall be a sufficient defense.
So, Moreno invoking his shady alderman/mob privileges to forbid a private company from operating in his ward because he did not like the content of its president’s speech? I mean REALLY, there can’t possibly be anyone who thinks that’s Constitutional . . . right?
Anyway, after all that, Chick-fil-A allegedly “pledged” to stop speaking on certain topics or speaking with a certain content. I say allegedly, because if you go back and read the story, all of the information comes from a press release from some random group called The Civil Rights Agenda. Chick-fil-A itself neither contests nor confirms the press release, there is no statement from Moreno (although you can see part of it here; the Chicago Tribune story is subscribers-only), and a group who allegedly received donations denies it ever got anything. Chick-fil-A’s statement basically repeats what it has already said on the issue, and the letter allegedly sent to Moreno from the non-profit is quoted but not reproduced, so we actually have no idea 1. if Chick-fil-A ever actually promised not to donate to certain groups and 2. whether that promise, if real, was required by Moreno in order to get his blessing.
I could care less if Chick-fil-A makes private decisions about what to donate to whom. I don’t care! It’s not my money anymore once I have paid them for my chicken! What I do care about is elected officials coercing private companies into making those decisions as a condition for receiving benefits (such as operating a business). At this point, we do not know whether Chick-fil-A made the promise or if that promise was required–but if it was required, Moreno has violated the Constitution using typical Leftist thug tactics (and essentially solicited a bribe), and I think less of Chick-fil-A for giving in to the bullying.
(There is a chance that this random group is exaggerating or misunderstood what happened. In that case, I reserve the right to change my opinion. I think what really happened is that the agreement was supposed to be confidential and this group, in a bid for attention, spilled the beans, but maybe it really wasn’t as shady as it sounds, so I put this caveat here in case we get more information that changes things.)
But don’t worry about your free speech, everyone, because there are more important things. They have finally found bin Laden’s porn. You can sleep easier now knowing that his porn collection has been bought to justice. It was probably the gutsiest call of all.